Hemispheric lateralization in reasoning

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2015 Nov:1359:47-64. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12940. Epub 2015 Oct 1.


A growing body of evidence suggests that reasoning in humans relies on a number of related processes whose neural loci are largely lateralized to one hemisphere or the other. A recent review of this evidence concluded that the patterns of lateralization observed are organized according to two complementary tendencies. The left hemisphere attempts to reduce uncertainty by drawing inferences or creating explanations, even at the cost of ignoring conflicting evidence or generating implausible explanations. Conversely, the right hemisphere aims to reduce conflict by rejecting or refining explanations that are no longer tenable in the face of new evidence. In healthy adults, the hemispheres work together to achieve a balance between certainty and consistency, and a wealth of neuropsychological research supports the notion that upsetting this balance results in various failures in reasoning, including delusions. However, support for this model from the neuroimaging literature is mixed. Here, we examine the evidence for this framework from multiple research domains, including an activation likelihood estimation analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies of reasoning. Our results suggest a need to either revise this model as it applies to healthy adults or to develop better tools for assessing lateralization in these individuals.

Keywords: meta-analysis; split brain; unilateral brain damage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cerebrum / pathology*
  • Cerebrum / physiology*
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions*
  • Schizophrenia, Paranoid / diagnosis
  • Schizophrenia, Paranoid / psychology
  • Split-Brain Procedure / trends